SkELL: Sketch Engine for Language Learning reveals word usage

I’ve had “review Sketch Engine for e-Resources” on my to-do list for quite awhile now, because the site looks promising and like it may take some time to dig into. This tool can provide quite a bit of information about word usage: the various searches one can conduct are well-documented in a paper published by the site’s developers: Baisa, V., & Suchomel, V. (2014) SkELL – Web Interface for English Language Learning. In Eighth Workshop on Recent Advances in Slavonic Natural Language Processing. Brno: Tribun EU, pp. 63-70. ISSN 2336-4289.

Essentially, SkELL provides lots of example sentences from huge language corpora (databases of actual use) with a given word or phrase, shows top collocates, and shows synonyms, the latter in both a list and a word cloud. All data is algorithm-produced without human checking or editing. I was happily surprised, when I tried out SkELL, that for looking up a word or phrase, the search process is quick and simple, and the results are easy to read.

I decided to look up “presentable,” because this word appears in the SkELL instructions in a pattern that struck me as a surprising collocation, “presentable sentences.”  

In my search results, I saw examples about presentable clothing and personalities, but not “presentable” language, confirming my suspicion.

I wish that it were possible in this free version to find out what sentences came from what corpora: blogs, ads, conversations, academic papers, news, etc. The full version of Sketch Engine provides more complex search options.

I did note a grammatical error in one example sentence (“…clothes that looks…”), which is a function of drawing on corpora of language as it is actually used: language use doesn’t always follow one set of rules.

When I looked up the whole phrase, “presentable sentence,” I got this error message (quite appropriately, I think):

If you try SkELL, comment here to share what you looked up & what you found.